Posts Tagged ‘Sen. John McCain’

In an ABC News blog burst titled Romney Camp Laments, John Berman Reports: The remnants of the Romney campaign are shaking their heads this morning.

For months they were whispering about a New York Times investigation into John McCain’s ties to a certain lobbyist.

They would poke and prod reporters to see if they had heard anything new about when and if the New York Times would publish the story.

On Thursday, while no one would allow their name to be published, several former advisers lamented the timing of the story, one suggesting, “If this piece had run before New Hampshire, McCain would have lost. If it had run before Florida, he would have lost” [...]

[...] Most of Romney’s staff has dispersed, but when reached they made clear there would be no statement from Romney or the Romney team about the New York Times piece … just a lot of wondering about what might have been [...]

Here is what would have been: You would have still discovered a way to fail. So: Let it go, losers. Just go home. You had lots of second chances and you blew them all. See:

John Ellis: [Romney] “was terribly served by his campaign staff and advisors—I would argue that they win the worst campaign team of 2008—Good riddance to them—They had everything they needed to make a good run and they made a complete hash of it”

Also: the NYT smear will redound to Sen. McCain’s benefit.

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dr. g.d.

“With a commanding lead in most super Tuesday states GOP frontrunner John MCCain is looking for a put away punch in Mitt Romney’s homestate of Massachusetts,” writes Carl Cameron in a FoxNews.com Cameron’s Corner blog burst titled McCain tries to put Mitt away in Massachusetts; McCAIN PLAYS TO DEFEAT MITT ONCE AND FOR ALL IN MASSACHUSETTS

McCain hopes to win a big majority of the 1,023 nomination delegates that are up for grabs in the 21 states that have contests 2/5 (there are 15 primaries, 5 caucuses and 1 state convention, Ten of the races are winner take all) But Romney has signaled that may not push him out of the race.The McCain campaign believes beating Romney “in the state where people know him best” would be a decisive blow that would force Romney to reconsider and ultimately withdraw.

As FOX was first to report Wednesday, McCain plans to watch the Super Bowl and campaign in Boston!! Sunday night and Monday morning [...]

On the other hand, the MA GOP are “rallying for Romney!”

“BOSTON—Former Gov. Weld and former Lieutenant Gov. Kerry Healey are among the prominent Massachusetts Republicans supporting Mitt Romney’s presidential bid,” writes some anonymous somebody in a boston.com release titled Massachusetts Republican leaders stick by Romney

The former governor also has the support of two state senators and 18 of the state’s 19 GOP representatives.

Other notables supporting Romney include district attorneys Tim Cruz, Michael O’Keefe and Elizabeth Scheibel [...]

Romney for his part has vowed to fight on past super-duper apocalypse Tuesday:

“MINNEAPOLIS, MINN. — Though he once expected to have the Republican nomination nearly locked up by now, Mitt Romney said that he’s now ready to hunker down for the long haul,” writes Scott Conroy for cbsnews.com in a From the Road blog burst titled Romney: GOP Race Won’t Be Decided On Tuesday

“Looking at the numbers of delegates and the numbers of states, I don’t think somebody’s going to walk away with the needed numbers, so I think this thing goes on well beyond Tuesday,” Romney said at an impromptu press conference aboard his campaign plane. “I don’t look early at the calendar beyond Tuesday, but I know there is one, and I intend to keep on battling.”

Although he lags behind John McCain in many of the delegate-rich states that vote on Tuesday, Romney said he was heartened by the recent coalescing of support he’s received from influential conservative talk radio hosts like Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter and Laura Ingraham [...]

Yes, well, about Limbaugh, Coulter, and Ingraham, Ruffini writes:

[...] There is a message in these returns to conservatives busy soldering together the coalition below decks: do not assume that just because they’re all pro-life, that Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Laura Ingraham speak for the social conservatives Romney needs next Tuesday. They don’t. Being pro-life and pro-marriage is not enough [...]

[...] It’s instructive to study how George W. Bush united the conservative coalition eight years ago. He did so not as a Mitt Romney Republican but as a Mike Huckabee Republican. The only thing Bush offered fiscal conservatives was tax cuts. The rest was Catholic social thought. Say what you will about him, but Bush has never gone squishy on a single social issue in eight years. But has gone wobbly on fiscal issues, leading to a revolt in the conservative establishment. As Bush knew, and as we are re-learning with the rise of John McCain and the intransigence of Mike Huckabee’s base, fiscal conservatism is where the opinion leaders are, and social conservatism is where the votes are [...]

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“Mitt Romney has emerged as the last Republican with a chance to stop John McCain, and there’s no doubt he’s a candidate from central casting: successful in business and politics, a family man, and quicker and more articulate than most,” write the editors of the Wall Street Journal in an editorial titled Romney’s Convictions

The main doubt about him has been whether he believes in anything enough to stick to it if he did become President.To hear the candidate himself tell it, Mr. Romney believes above all in “data.” As he told us on a visit, his management style includes “wallowing” in data about a problem, analyzing that data like the business consultant he once was, and then using it to devise a solution. A major theme of his candidacy is that he’ll bring that business model to a “broken” Washington, apply it to Congress and the bureaucracy, and thus triumph over gridlock and the status quo.

To which we’d say: Good luck with that. Washington’s problem isn’t a lack of data, or a failure to calibrate the incentives as in the business world. Congress and the multiple layers of government respond exactly as you’d expect given the incentives for self-preservation and turf protection that always exist in political institutions. The only way to overcome them is with leadership on behalf of good ideas backed by public support. The fact that someone as bright as Mr. Romney doesn’t recognize this Beltway reality risks a Presidency that would get rolled quicker than you can say Jimmy Carter.

All the more so because we haven’t been able to discern from his campaign, or his record in Massachusetts, what his core political principles are. Mr. Romney spent his life as a moderate Republican, and he governed the Bay State that way after his election in 2002. While running this year, however, he has reinvented himself as a conservative from radio talk show-casting, especially on immigration.

The problem is not that Mr. Romney is willing to reconsider his former thinking. Nor is it so much that his apparent convictions always seem in sync with the audience to which he is speaking at the moment. (Think $20 billion in corporate welfare for Michigan auto makers.) Plenty of politicians attune their positions to new constituencies. The larger danger is that Mr. Romney’s conversions are not motivated by expediency or mere pandering but may represent his real governing philosophy [...]

[...] John McCain’s difficulties in selling himself to GOP voters reflect his many liberal lurches over the years — from taxes to free speech, prescription drugs and global warming cap and trade. Republicans have a pretty good sense of where he might betray them. Yet few doubt that on other issues — national security, spending — Mr. McCain will stick to his principles no matter the opinion polls. If Mr. Romney loses to Senator McCain, the cause will be his failure to persuade voters that he has any convictions at all [...]

We so heartily concur. See:

Lizza: Romney is a passionate advocate of each new stance he takes

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“The Romney campaign’s February 5th math is simple: move all the voters from the Huckabee pile onto theirs and claim a majority of conservatives,” writes the estimable Patrick Ruffini, an “Ex-Bush aide/Giuliani aide/current Romney endorser,” as described by Marc Ambinder, in a blog burst titled Intransigent Huck Voters

Unfortunately, continues Ruffini, it’s just not that simple.

In the South — still more delegate-rich per capita than NY, CA, NJ, IL, etc. — the “conservative” vote, defined as Romney + Huckabee, is splitting down the middle. Most polls down South look like McCain 30, Huckabee 25, Romney 25. We’ve seen how this played out in South Carolina, except there it was establishment conservatives refusing to take the advice that they play ball with Huckabee to strengthen their hand in Florida. We also saw it in rural northern Florida, where in many cases it was a three man race (and often a two man race between McCain and Huck).

The problem with this analysis is that I’ve seen no evidence that Huckabee voters would go to Romney. On a county level, the Romney and Huckabee votes are negatively correlated, with Romney representing the conservative side of the Chamber of Commerce/Rotary Club vote and not really showing outsized strength with Evangelicals [...]

[...] There is a message in these returns to conservatives busy soldering together the coalition below decks: do not assume that just because they’re all pro-life, that Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Laura Ingraham speak for the social conservatives Romney needs next Tuesday. They don’t. Being pro-life and pro-marriage is not enough. To understand what Huckabee voters want, you need to actually appreciate what Mike Huckabee brings to the table, which is an emphasis on faith, undiluted. Many conservatives, particularly those around here, do not. While many of us agree on the social issues, the conservative establishment resented how he injected his religion into the campaign. Never have I seen conservatives so readily repeat the Barry Lynn/ACLU line on the “wall” between church and state.

It’s instructive to study how George W. Bush united the conservative coalition eight years ago. He did so not as a Mitt Romney Republican but as a Mike Huckabee Republican. The only thing Bush offered fiscal conservatives was tax cuts. The rest was Catholic social thought. Say what you will about him, but Bush has never gone squishy on a single social issue in eight years. But has gone wobbly on fiscal issues, leading to a revolt in the conservative establishment. As Bush knew, and as we are re-learning with the rise of John McCain and the intransigence of Mike Huckabee’s base, fiscal conservatism is where the opinion leaders are, and social conservatism is where the votes are.

Mitt Romney is trying to unify the party as a business guy from Belmont who is culturally as far removed from Suwannee County, Florida as you can get. He’s going about it very clinically: vote for me because I’m not McCain. But I’m not sure that message holds much sway with an audience that takes its cues from Christian radio not News/Talk and certainly not National Review. And notice his message: it’s all about the economy, and nothing about Life and only a little bit about marriage. Christian voters have noticed.

Romney is pinning his hopes on brining in the social “leg of the stool.” But though they’re not wild about McCain, I’d venture that a plurality of these voters would rank Romney third [...]

[...] Specifically, it seems to me that the conservative establishment’s decision to go nuclear first on Huckabee (who never had a shot but speaks for voters we need in November) before McCain (who always had a shot but speaks mostly for himself) will rank as a pretty serious strategic blunder [...]

We concur. Only it was Romney went nuclear on Gov. Huckabee, and at great cost. See:

Marc Ambinder comments on Ruffini’s analysis in a blog burst titled Republican Coalition Politics

[...] Left unasked is precisely why the establishment felt more threatened by Mike Huckabee that it did by even John McCain. And not just the pro-business, anti-tax wing of the professional conservative establishment: the faith wing, too, from the Family Research Council to various members of the Arlington Group who cast their lot with Fred Thompson, a conservative, to be sure, but someone of an undefined protestant faith who didn’t seem to go to church much.

My theory — and it remains a theory — is that Huckabee threatened these interests so much because he never depended on them in the past and would never depend on them in the future. In the sense that these interests mediated between leaders and rank-and-file conservatives, Huckabee was able to bypass the mediators and speak directly to faith voters — the hard core corps of moral conservatives who tend to compromise about 20 to 35% of any given electorate, more so in the South and Midwest [...]

Only now it begins to dawn on Republicans just how much damage Tribe Romney has done to the base.

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dr. g.d.

“Mitt Romney poured twice as much of his own money into his campaign than he received from all outside donors combined in the final months of last year, according to new campaign finance reports,” reports Elana Schor in a http://www.guardian.co.uk release titled New finance reports show Romney’s fundraising fell short

Romney, scrambling to knock John McCain from the frontrunner’s pedestal in the Republican presidential race, spent $18m from his personal fortune during the fourth quarter of 2007.His contributions from other sources during that period totaled $9.1m, as listed in financial records that all campaigns were required to release by today [...]

Team Romney itself attempts to mitigate by attenuation their crashing contributions, and increasing use of Romney’s vast personal fortune, by framing their ongoing financial disaster, and fantastically low ROI for their every campaign dollar, in a larger context:

BOSTON, Jan 31, 2008 /PRNewswire-USNewswire via COMTEX/ — Today, Romney for President announced it reported over $27 million in total receipts for the Fourth Quarter, ending December 31, 2007. The Campaign again opted to raise no general election funds and reported $9 million in primary contributions. The total receipts include Governor Romney’s loan of $18 million.

For the entire year, Romney for President had total receipts of $90 million. In the past month, Governor Romney’s message of conservative change in Washington has resonated with people across this country. Governor Romney has won three states, placed a strong second in another three and had a strong showing in South Carolina [...]

Here is the problem for Team Romney: the larger context that Team Romney wants you to consider only casts in sharper relief

(a) just how much the Romneys have spent for so little, and how little Romney’s competitors have spent for so much

-and-

(b) just how drastically Romney’s receipts have declined relative to his spending—hence, Romney’s self-financing.

Tommy Oliver of race42008.com, however, points out that Romney has “tie[d] Fred Thompson for 3rd place this quarter in contributions.”

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dr. g.d.

“A memo from a senior strategist for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney says that the media are ready to give the Republican nomination to Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), but if Romney can attract more conservatives, he will win the nomination,” writes Sam Youngman in a TheHill.com analytical fantasia titled Romney memo says media ‘ready to anoint McCain’

“We still have an uphill battle in front of us,” Romney strategist Alex Gage wrote in the memo. “The mainstream media is (sic) ready to anoint John McCain and he will have advantages in many states running for president for the past eight years – but Gov. Romney has a clear path to victory on February 5th and beyond.”

The memo, obtained by The Hill, outlines how McCain has failed to win over conservative voters in the states that have voted so far, and it details how Romney could have won if only a few more percentage points of that bloc had come over.

“The coalitions that John McCain assembled in New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Florida have been strikingly similar – and are strikingly tenuous,” Gage wrote [...]

[...] The memo goes on to say that Romney and McCain “are now in a two-man race and a few points’ movement among conservatives is all that’s needed to tip the scales in favor of Gov. Romney.”

Gage writes that in the early three states McCain won, his margin of victory was the result of the support of moderates, independents and voters that disapprove of the Bush administration.

“None of these groups is a majority of the Republican electorate,” Gage wrote, adding that this is the reason “McCain has failed to win more than 36 percent of the vote in any of them” [...]

Gage’s conclusions are based on an emerging fixed point in the discussion. Sen. McCain can reach across party lines to build issues coalitions; Romney can win the base. Chris Suellentrop develops the data coming out of Florida’s contest to arrive at a similar conclusion:

[...] In short, Mitt Romney won the Republican Party’s idea of itself ­ and that, too, is a big deal. If you’re white, Protestant, anti-abortion, go to church on Sundays, think well of the President, want lower taxes, hate terrorists, make a good living, want to do something about immigration, and live in Florida, chances are you voted Romney. The question before Florida was whether McCain could win a closed Republican race, and now we know he can. The question now is whether he can win conservatives ­ and in Florida, he did not [...]

Here, for Romney, begins what we earlier called the race to the base.

Hence Romney’s sudden volte face on whether to mount a last ditch advertising salvo. On January 30 David Espo of the AP reported that “Republican presidential rival Mitt Romney signaled Wednesday he’s not ready to finance a costly campaign in the states holding primaries and caucuses next week.

By February 1 Dan Morain and Scott Martelle of the LA Times issued the headline: Romney launches Super Tuesday ad barrage; The multimillion-dollar campaign in far-flung states, he hopes, will help him regain the edge he’s losing to McCain. Experts question whether ads will help at this point

[...] Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney launched a multimillion-dollar purchase of television ads Thursday, in a last-ditch effort to remain competitive with GOP presidential front-runner John McCain in the Super Tuesday contests.

Sources familiar with Romney’s plans said the ad buy would exceed $1 million in California alone, enough to give the former Massachusetts governor a presence in much of the state. Romney also was expected to spread some money around to some of the other 20 states holding GOP primaries or caucuses Tuesday, though experts question whether the late advertising would have any impact.

“I don’t think it’s possible to flood the airwaves in 22 states,” Romney said, but he nevertheless authorized “a seven-figure — I won’t give you the exact number — but a seven-figure advertising buy for our campaign.”

After a series of single-state contests in which voters could shake candidates’ hands, the Republican presidential nomination could be decided by millions of voters casting their ballots after having seen the candidates only in advertisements or news reports.

Those political ads depend on candidates’ ability to pay for them, and with the fields in both parties dwindling this week, the surviving candidates looked to pick up the support of former candidates’ fundraisers and bundlers [...]

Can Romney pull off this last chance, high-stakes, 11th hour, and super-expensive gambit? Can Romney secure his nomination and destroy the GOP? Keep watching the skies. Or the airwaves.

Whateverz.

Haven’t we all been here before?

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dr. g.d.

[...] “McCain isn’t a prohibitive favorite, but he’s a strong one,” writes William Kirstol in a weeklystandard blog burst titled Kristol: The Next 12 Hours

What could change the situation? It’s hard to believe paid advertising across 22 states (even if Romney’s willing to splurge) could fundamentally change the dynamic. There could always be some sort of scandal, revelation, or gaffe, or course – though that would be far more likely if there were a new, suddenly-emerged frontrunner, than with the most veteran and best-known candidate in the field. So the most likely game-changer, if there were to be one, would be tonight’s debate. It’s likely to be Romney’s last direct shot at McCain. If Romney were to land a really telling blow, it could shape the narrative for the rest of this week. If not, if this debate follows the course of almost all its predecessors and has no decisive moment, then all attention turns to Clinton-Obama, and McCain should have a pretty clear path.

The Romney camp has twelve hours to come up with a startling factoid, formulation, or revelation. The McCain camp has twelve hours to prepare for any such eventuality. If McCain does well tonight, he should be the GOP nominee [...]

Sen. McCain can win. But Romney cannot be defeated, at least not decisively, and at least not yet. Romney’s vast personal fortune, Sen. McCain’s ceiling of 36% in the earlier primaries according to Kristol, alleged conservative disaffection—all these things suggest that Romney could stick it out. However:

“Two questions come to mind” for Matt Lewis in a townhall.com blog burst titled Romney after Tsunami Tuesday?

  1. Would this shrewd business man, who has already spent well-over 20 million dollars of his own money, continue spending money on what could be a losing cause? Smart businessmen don’t throw away money.
  2. Would Mitt Romney want to be blamed for a Republican loss in the General Election. Fair or not, if he prolongs the race too long, that’s what some people would say …

Ronald Reagan went all the way to the Convention in ’76, and was rewarded with the nomination in ’80. That could happen for Mitt, too. Or, he could be more like Ted Kennedy — who was blamed for costing Jimmy Carter the election that same year [...]

Our comments and reflections: Romney’s shrewdness does not extend to the management of his political operations. Evidence: his appallingly low ROI for his every campaign dollar.

And whether or for what Romney gets blamed will affect Romney’s decision not in the least—recent history alone predicts this. Romney had it within his power to attempt to repair the damage that his negative advertising wrought in Iowa and New Hampshire; he has had the chance to reach out to Gov. Huckabee and Sen. McCain supporters. But he never has, and he probably never will. Conclusion: the man simply does not care what people think of him, he does not care how much his arrogant behavior costs him in polling numbers or at the ballot box, and he has no loyalty to either party or principle to moderate his behavior.

Our prediction: Romney will stick it out to the end. When the GOP collapses into a smoking wreck, Romney will turn and blame conservatives for failing to support him in sufficient strength, intensity, or depth.

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dr. g.d.

[...] “But it’s true”—i.e. true that the presumptive GOP nominee is Sen. John McCain, writes the sniveling and asinine Michael Graham in a TheCorner blog burst titled, despairingly, It’s All Over

When the campaign comes here to Massachusetts on February 5th, I’ll proudly cast my vote for any option on the GOP ballot other than You-Know-Who. But it will be a futile gesture. Mr. “1/3rd Of The GOP Primary Vote” is going to be the nominee.

He’s going to win the big, left-leaning states on Tuesday. Huckabee will stay in and deny Romney a one-on-one contest for GOP voters that Captain Amnesty would almost certainly lose. The result: More wins for He Who Must Not Be Named, and fewer wins for Romney—regardless of delegate count.

Florida has launched the one ship that Romney’s money and Rush Limbaugh cannot stop: The U.S.S. Inevitable. It’s gonna happen. Even if there were a realistic pathway to stop him, the media have seized control of the process now and are declaring him inevitable. He is, after all, the favorite son of the New York Times.

So it is over. Finished. In November, we’ll be sending out our most liberal, least trustworthy candidate vs. to take on Hillary Clinton—perhaps not more liberal than Barack Obama, but certainly far less trustworthy.

And the worst part for the Right is that McCain will have won the nomination while ignoring, insulting and, as of this weekend, shamelessly lying about conservatives and conservatism.

You think he supported amnesty six months ago? You think he was squishy on tax cuts and judicial nominees before? Wait until he has the power to anger every conservative in America, and feel good about it.

Every day, he dreams of a world filled with happy Democrats and insulted Republicans. And he is, thanks to Florida, the presidential nominee of the Republican party [...]

Note the bitterness. Note the spite. You think Sen. McCain was bad before, you Florida swamp-bunnies who allowed this to happen? You just wait. But what is worse for Graham is that he feels slighted by both Sen. McCain and Florida: “the worst part for the Right is that McCain will have won the nomination while ignoring, insulting and, as of this weekend, shamelessly lying about conservatives and conservatism.”

Translation: The voters have returned a decision that undermines the premises of the National Review itself. Further, these morons endorsed Willard Milton Romney.

Victor David Hanson pleads with his colleagues to not retail rumor without foundation and write responsibly

“At the risk of offending some in the Corner, I make the following observation about the recent posts-especially concerning those second-hand reports about what McCain purportedly said in Senate cloak rooms, or what is reported through anonymous sources about interviews he gave, or the legion of his other noted supposed sins,” writes Victor Davis Hanson in an NRO TheCorner post titled A Simple Warning

Note how the writer suddenly cannot a compose a clear or concise sentence.

Translation: This may offend some of you, but I need to comment on the rumors of what Sen. McCain is alleged to have said at this or that point in the past.

Back to Graham:

It is clear that the animus toward McCain shown by Romney supporters is growing far greater than any distaste those who support McCain feel for Romney. I am sympathetic to the McCain effort, but would of course, like most, support Romney should he get the nomination, given his experience, intelligence and positions on the war and the economy. I would worry about his ability to win independents and cross-overs, and note that his present positions are sometimes antithetical to his past ones, but also note that such concerns would be balanced by the recognition that it is hard for conservatives to get elected to anything in Massachusetts, that McCain in turn would have commensurate problems stirring the conservative base, and that McCain too has ‘adjusted’ on things like immigration et alia.

This is so unclear.

Translation: The animus of Romney supporters toward Sen. McCain is out of all proportion to the animus of Sen. McCain supporters for Romney. I support Sen. McCain. But I would support Romney were he to get the GOP nomination. I would still worry about how Romney polarizes people and his present inconsistency with positions he has taken in the past. But I would balance these concerns against how hard it is for conservatives in MA to get elected to anything. Sen. McCain, too, is going to face challenges because of his past positions.

Back to Graham:

[...] But all that said, at some point there should be recognition that some are becoming so polarized-and polarizing-that we are reaching the point that should a McCain win (and there is a good chance he will), and should he grant the necessary concessions to the base (chose someone like Thompson as his VP, take firm pledges on tax cuts, closing the border, etc), go on Limbaugh, Hannity, etc. for some mea culpas, all that still seemingly would not be enough. And if that were true, the result would vastly increase the chances of the Presidents Clinton, under whom there would be a vastly different Supreme Court, some chance of forfeiting what has been achieved in Iraq, and surely greater growth in government and earmarks [...]

[...] Some here have become so polarized that should Sen. McCain win and grant all the necessary concessions to the base, that would still not be enough. The sad result of that would be a President Clinton or Obama [...]

[...] Keeping all that in mind seems far more important than tracing down the anonymous source who claims McCain said something to someone at sometime [...]

Translation: You NRO writers need to be responsible for what you write. Do not just reproduce rumors or issue a single candidate’s spin. Instead: pursue your sources, and cite your sources. Right now, colleagues, you are poisoning your own well; you are fouling your own nest.

We concur.

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dr. g.d.

[...] “It’s the perfect opportunity for a Wall Street Republican to make the case that what the country needs now is good business mind, not a former war hero,” writes Rex Nutting, Washington bureau chief of MarketWatch, in a MarketWatch article titled Romney running for tycoon in chief; Commentary: Will business background be a plus?

Unfortunately for Romney, that appeal isn’t working in the Republican primaries.

Polls show that national security concerns continue to rank much higher among Republican voters, even if worries about the economy are growing. According to the Rasmussen Poll, Republican voters in Florida would rather pick a commander in chief than a chief executive for the U.S. economy.

Romney’s support has soared over the past two weeks, especially in Florida. He’s tied with Sen. John McCain in the latest polls ahead of Tuesday’s vote. But the Romney surge isn’t related to the bad news about the economy; rather, he’s picking up conservative voters stranded by Fred Thompson’s withdrawal from the race and Huckabee’s partial pullback from Florida.

Romney leads McCain among conservative voters, and he’s hoping that his message of economic competence could gain him support among voters who see themselves as moderates, where McCain holds a sizable lead.

Romney has been going directly after McCain, his chief rival for the nomination, accusing him of being out of touch on the economy. He has mocked McCain for saying “economics is not something I’ve understood as well as I should.”

McCain has fired back, saying that while Romney was making millions and working for “profit,” he was serving “patriotism.”

So far, the economic themes haven’t been registering for Romney.

According to pollster Scott Rasmussen, “McCain actually holds a slight lead over Romney among voters who name the economy as the top issue.” Seven of 10 Republicans say the best thing the government can do to help the economy is get out of the way, which is more McCain’s view than Romney’s.

Maybe Romney understands the economy, but it looks as if it’s McCain who understands Republicans.

If Romney can get past McCain and win the nomination, he’ll try to persuade independents and hesitant Democrats that his business background qualifies him to be president.

But if he does make it past the convention, it’ll be an uphill struggle to run as a tycoon after the mess Wall Street has made of the economy, with its overhyped dotcoms, its phony accounting, its bloated bonuses, and its toxic mortgages [...]

The emphases are ours, all ours.

We heartily concur. See:

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“Manchester, N.H.— If you think things got a bit testy between John McCain and Mitt Romney during the ABC News debate here at St. Anselm College Saturday night, you didn’t see the half of it,” writes Byron York in a surprisingly objective article posted to our least favorite blog-for-Mitt, the National Review, titled The Feud Behind the Feud at the GOP Debate; Do you think these guys don’t like each other?

After the debate, when top campaign aides and surrogates came to the Spin Room to tout their candidates’ performances, members of the Romney and McCain camps said the things their bosses might have been thinking but did not dare utter onstage.

McCain delivered “cheap shots,” said one Romney adviser. Another called McCain’s criticisms of Romney “snide remarks” and “name calling.” Yet another said they were “unbecoming.” All of which caused Mark Salter, McCain’s closest aide, to go off.

“Come on, Mitt, tighten up your chin strap,” Salter, standing just a few feet away from the Romney team, told reporters. “Of all the ludicrous suggestions – Mitt Romney whining about being attacked, when he has predicated an entire campaign plan on whoever serially looks like the biggest challenger gets, whatever, $20 million dropped on his head and gets his positions distorted. Give me a break. It’s nothing more than a guy who dishes it out from 30,000 feet altitude and then gets down in the arena and somebody says, O.K. Mitt, gives him a little pop back, and he starts whining. That’s unbecoming.”

What had McCain aides particularly heated was Romney’s exchange with McCain on the issue of McCain’s immigration proposals and the question of amnesty. “The fact is, it’s not amnesty,” McCain said during the debate. “And for you to describe it as you do in the attack ads, my friend, you can spend your whole fortune on these attack ads, but it still won’t be true.”

“I don’t describe your plan as amnesty in my ad,” Romney answered. “I don’t call it amnesty.”

With that, the issue became not whether McCain’s plan was or was not amnesty but whether Romney had or had not called it amnesty. And jaws dropped at McCain headquarters.

“What got us all going was when Governor Romney said, ‘We never called what you did amnesty,’“ said McCain confidante Sen. Lindsey Graham said. “Look on TV. Look in your mailbox in New Hampshire. John’s been pounded by Governor Romney with that charge. I was just dumbstruck.”

Indeed, after the debate, McCain aides produced a Romney mailing which said “John McCain: Supports Amnesty.” An e-mail from the Romney campaign earlier in the day referred to McCain’s “amnesty plan.” And a new Romney TV ad featured Romney supporters saying McCain “supported amnesty for illegal immigrants” and “wrote the amnesty bill.” In light of that, it is hard to see how Romney was being straight when he said he didn’t “describe [McCain’s] plan as amnesty.” After the debate, Romney’s spokesman, Kevin Madden, choosing his words carefully, said McCain favored “an amnesty-like approach” [...]

Once again Romney elects to dispute not with his rival but with the universe itself. He wants the privilege to call white black, and darkness light, and have it be so. The lesson Romney has yet to learn is that when you deny a publicly available fact the issue becomes not the point at dispute, but you.

Luntz: “Romney made a ‘big mistake’ by going negative against Huckabee”—how a Faustian Romney rages against the laws of physics

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